“We should have a relationship that keeps Christ at the center.”
I read his text, confused, but so giddy that he actually wanted a relationship that I decided to go along with it.
“Definitely,” I said back.
But I never stopped to ask what he meant by that. What does it mean to have Christ at the center of your relationship? What does that look like? Does a Christian relationship mean you don’t have sex until marriage, but everything else is pretty much the same?
We were 16 years old and trying our best to have a Christian relationship, but we had no one to guide us. We spouted off lines our youth pastors had said from stage about dating and tried our best to stumble through a relationship in high school.
Two years into the relationship we decided to break up because we looked more like the world than like Christ. It was simultaneously devastating and freeing. I had no idea how unhealthy our relationship was until it was over.
As Christians, we treat dating differently. A common misconception is that this means we have boring and stale relationships. We have to stay away from any fun and put up so many boundaries that our relationships become an endless maze to try to navigate.
And yet, if joy is a fruit of the Spirit, why would Christian dating relationships be void of it?
Living a Christ-centered life isn’t meant to take away the “fun” in life — on the contrary — a Christ-centered life is exactly the life we were created to live. And a dating relationship can reflect that.
On the flip side, dating is more serious than the world treats it. It’s important to be thoughtful about who you are dating because you want to continue to live a life that glorifies Christ. Dating relationships can easily send us on a slippery slope that takes us away from Jesus faster than we have a chance to realize.
And when you’re a teenager, years away from marriage, how in the world do you navigate it all as a Christian? It isn’t easy, but you don’t have to walk into a relationship blindly. It helps to know the right questions to ask yourself and the other person before you start dating.
Use the following questions to help you decide whether a relationship is worth it or not and read the accompanying scripture to see where the Bible gives us truth on the matter.
1. Do you see the fruits of the Spirit in his/her life?
(Galatians 5:22-23, John 15:8)
You can ask the other person if they’re a Christian, if they love Jesus, if they want a Christian relationship, etc. but chances are you’re in the early stages of a relationship and the other person will try their best to have the answers you want to hear. It’s not necessarily a bad thing. It’s almost impossible to be yourself without really knowing someone and establishing a relationship. It’s easy to over-think everything we say and want to sound good to the other person.
Since this is often true at the beginning of a relationship, the easiest way you can see the other person’s faith is if you easily see the fruit of the spirit in their lives. Are they loving to all kinds of people? Do they have contagious joy in the Lord? Are they kind? Look for the fruits of the spirit. Do they need to be a perfect example of the fruit of the spirit? No! None of us are, but if you have to look too hard or find yourself giving concessions or making excuses for the little fruit you do see, then the relationship may not be worth your time.
2. How does he/she speak?
(Luke 6:45, Matthew 12:33-37, Ephesians 4:29-32, James 3:9-12, Galatians 5:15)
The verses in Luke and Matthew prove to be true of all people — what is in your heart will show up in your words. If Christ is in your heart, it wouldn’t make sense for you to speak words of hate. Hate is a product of sin and there is no sin in Christ. The nearer we draw to Christ, the more we will start to speak like Him.
Now, some people may not speak obvious words of hate, but the scripture is clear: gossip, slander, and coarse joking are common in the world’s speech. These things cause division, they spread lies, and they tear people down. Christ came to bring the opposite: unity, truth, and love. While these “small” ways of speaking are common everywhere we go, when Christians speak in truth, love, unity, and encouragement, we reveal the heart of Christ.
3. Does he/she love and serve others well?
(John 13:34-35, 1 John 2:5-6, 1 John 2:9-11, James 2:14-26, Romans 12:9-21)
Have you ever noticed how Christ loved people way more than He explicitly talked about loving people? Of course, He commanded people to love one another, but His actions truly showed us what it meant to love others. He didn’t just talk about loving people; He devoted His entire life to loving others and He calls us to do the same. If we follow a God of love, our lives will show it.
4. Does he/she love God’s word?
(James 1:22-25, Psalm 119:11, Psalm 119:20)
It’s easy to attend church, sing in the worship band, go to Bible studies, and talk about Jesus and still not actually love God’s Word. Do you see a thirst in them for God’s Word? Are they taking time to study on their own? Sure, it’s very difficult to understand the Bible—especially on our own. But that should never be an excuse to ignore it altogether. The Bible is God’s Word given to us. It contains truth that our souls long to hear. God’s Word is essential to a life lived in obedience to God.
5. Does he/she look like the rest of the world?
(Romans 12:1-2, James 4:4, Colossians 3:1-10)
It seems to be getting harder and harder to follow Christ in a world that is doing just the opposite. And yet, this is no excuse to get half-hearted in our pursuit of Christ. Is there something different about the person you want to date? Do others see it? We are called to look different. Not just for the sake of being different, but for the sake of living lives that glorify God in all that we do. This is how we were created to live.
6. Do you see humility in her/him?
(Romans 12:3-8, Philippians 2:1-11, James 4:10, Colossians 3:12-17)
Humility can be difficult to point out because it’s not loud and it often isn’t very noticeable. Pride is easier to see, but sometimes hard to name since it looks like so much of the world. Pride looks like someone who can’t listen well. A prideful person tends to make everything about themselves. They always need to be right. They may be quick to argue. They need to be recognized and are constantly seeking approval or validation. They talk down to or make fun of others.
And while Pride loves company, the company will always come up empty because Pride can never focus on others.
Humility is constantly pointing to others. Humility doesn’t care what others think. Humility doesn’t need to keep a certain image. Humility is Jesus. In a social media influenced world, humility is hard to find. But if you’re seeing hints of it in the person you want to date, that’s a good sign that they’re walking with Jesus.
7. Is he/she firm on his/her own physical boundaries?
(1 Corinthians 10:11-12, 1 Corinthians 6:12-20, Romans 12:1-2)
Physical boundaries are a tough conversation to have, but the conversation usually can’t be ignored or assumed. It’s easy to assume they have your same boundaries because you’re both calling yourself Christians, but (especially these days) boundaries can be all over the place. You may have the boundary that you don’t want to be in a car alone together, but he doesn’t. Then you end up in a car alone and it’s easy to compromise your own boundary for the sake of not making a big deal over it happening “this one time.” But once the boundary is crossed, it’s easy to jump the line again and again, further and further.
You will always yield to the person with the loosest boundaries. If you both are aware of your areas of temptation and you set boundaries that keep you from those temptations, then you will be more likely to respect each others’ boundaries.
Here are some secondary questions to discuss if you want to have a discussion about boundaries:
1. Do you think we should ever be alone? When would it be ok to be alone?
2. When is it ok to hug? Hold hands? Is it ok to kiss? Do you think it’s ok to go past kissing in a dating relationship?
3. Is there a time of day where it’s best to stop texting/FaceTiming/talking?
4. Is there a mentor in your life that you’re willing to share all the details about our relationship with, so you’re held accountable?
This obviously isn’t a question, but if you’ve asked yourself these questions and you’re still unsure about the relationship, then pray. Ask for wisdom and guidance. Hold the relationship loosely in your hands, ready to do whatever the Lord asks of you.Hold your romantic relationship loosely in your hands, ready to do whatever the Lord asks of you. Click To Tweet
So, maybe you’re reading these questions and the accompanying Scriptures and thinking, “Well. Maybe he/she is dating material, but now I don’t think I am!” But guess what? Following Jesus is an incredible and never-ending journey. If you start focusing on the fact that you need to work on something, you can easily miss the Gospel.
Ephesians 2:8-9 says “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.”
You’re right. You aren’t perfect. And neither is the person you may want to date someday. But the beauty is that Jesus was perfect, and His death and resurrection offer us the gift of grace we need in order to follow Him imperfectly. It isn’t in our own strength that we are saved, and it isn’t in our own strength that we continue to walk with Jesus.